CHICAGO — A federal judge is holding the City of Chicago liable for violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), saying the city has failed to provide accessible pedestrian signals to those who are blind or have low vision at intersections across the city.
In April 2021, the DoJ moved to intervene in a disability discrimination lawsuit that people with visual disabilities brought against the City under the ADA and the Rehabilitation Act.
The complaint, filed at the time by the federal government, alleged the City failed to provide people who are blind, have low vision or are deaf-blind with accessible pedestrian signals (APS’s) at intersections, e.g., the equivalent of “walk/don’t walk” visual signals that indicate when it is safe to cross the street for pedestrians without visual disabilities.
Examples of APS’s include devices that communicate safe-crossing information in a non-visual format, such as through audible tones, speech messages and vibrotactile surfaces.
According to a press release from the Justice Department, the City of Chicago has recognized the need to install APS’s for pedestrians with visual disabilities since at least 2006, but — since intervention by the federal government — fewer than 1% of intersections equipped to provide sighted pedestrians visual signals (nearly 2,800) were equipped with APS’s for people who are blind or have low vision.
On March 31, U.S. District Judge Elaine E. Bucklo sided with the United States and the private plaintiffs in a decision on both sides’ motions for summary judgment, holding the city in violation of the ADA and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.
The court found the city had provided APS’s at only a “miniscule portion of the whole,” and thus had failed “to provide ‘meaningful access’ to its network of existing facilities and to ensure that newly constructed signals are designed and constructed in such a manner as to be ‘readily accessible’ by blind individuals.”
“Federal law offers people with visual disabilities the promise of full participation in community life, and safely navigating city streets is a critical part of that,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “We will continue pushing for a remedy that fully addresses the discrimination faced by blind people in Chicago.”
For more information on the Civil Rights Division, you can visit www.justice.gov/crt. For more information on the ADA, you can call the department’s toll-free ADA Information Line at 800-514-0301 (TDD 800-514-0383) or visit www.ada.gov. Members of the public may report possible civil rights violations at https://civilrights.justice.gov/report.